This Week in Logistics News (April 14-18, 2014)

With today being a holiday for many of you, I will be brief and quick. Here’s the news that caught my attention this week:

While supply chain and logistics software often gets the lion’s share of attention, a big deal was announced this week on the hardware side, with smaller fish Zebra Technologies ($1.3 billion in sales in 2013) buying a bigger fish, Motorola Solutions’ enterprise business ($2.5 billion in pro-forma sales in 2013). Here are some details from the press release:

Motorola’s Enterprise business is an industry leader in mobile computing and advanced data capture communications technologies and services. Through this transaction, Zebra will enter the segment where Motorola’s Enterprise business competes and strengthen its position in key industries including Retail, Transportation & Logistics, and Manufacturing and serve approximately 95 percent of the Fortune 500.

 

Zebra Technologies, with 2013 sales of $1.0 billion, is an industry leader in barcode and enterprise printing, asset tracking, Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, and motion and location sensing. The combination of these technology offerings and asset tracking solutions, together with Motorola’s Enterprise business, will create an industry leader in enterprise asset intelligence for the Connected Age.

Will the convergence of these data capture and asset tracking technologies drive innovation in transportation, logistics, and manufacturing processes? That’s part of Zebra’s bet, and only time will tell.

Meanwhile, HighJump Software announced a partnership with MP Objects of the Netherlands that “will expand a transportation management system (TMS) offering to customers around the world, as well as extend the reach of the HighJump warehouse management system (WMS).” According to the press release:

With this transportation management system, customers have greater visibility into their multi-modal operations. The need for manual, time-consuming daily route and shipment optimization is eliminated, as the software uses advanced algorithms to determine the least-cost, fastest transport solution by taking into account the best carrier, mode and route. After that is determined, the customer has full visibility of the order as the TMS monitors execution. The solution works with complex routes for multiple carriers and across multiple clients. Customers can also use the TMS to configure rate agreements, subcontractor selection, performance reporting and more.

I am not familiar with MP Objects and its transportation management solution, but the description above sounds fairly standard for a TMS. HighJump has taken different paths over the years with its TMS strategy. Back in 2006, the company acquired TMS provider Pinnacle Distribution Concepts, then in 2010 it announced a partnership with MercuryGate. This partnership is the latest chapter, with an international focus.

On the 3PL front, Transportation Insight shared its growth strategy branded “Vision 20/20” with local government officials this week. The company presented a six-year financial plan to become a $3.5 to $5 billion company by January 1, 2020, driven by acquisitions as well as organic growth. Here’s a quote from Transportation Insight President and CEO Chris Baltz:

“Since our founding in 1999, we have been committed to accelerated growth and continuous improvement for both our clients and for our company. Now having over 400 enterprise clients across North America, we can leverage our investments in technology, supply chain analytics, network optimization and business intelligence [emphasis mine] to provide a market leading platform of continuous improvement across over 400,000 shipping and receiving locations.”

It’s interesting to note where Transportation Insight is focusing its investments: technology, analytics, optimization, and business intelligence. This is just another example of how the business models of 3PLs, technology companies, and consultants continue to merge.

Finally, at its annual investor meeting earlier this week, Gap Inc. put the spotlight on its omni-channel and inventory management initiatives. According to the company’s press release:

Building upon its current omni-channel suite — including reserve in store, find in store and ship from store — later this year, the company will be testing its new order in store capability, which allows customers instant access to expanded product offerings online. Further, the company is announcing the expansion of its reserve in store service to all Gap stores in the United States by the end of the second quarter, enabling online and mobile shoppers to now reserve items at more than 1,000 Gap and Banana Republic store locations.

 

Gap Inc. leaders also will discuss progress against its move to a seamless inventory model and a more responsive global supply chain [emphasis mine], both designed to fulfill customer demand with increased speed and flexibility, while unlocking revenue and gross margin potential.

One of the challenges retailers face is managing inventory across its different sales and fulfillment channels, which is made even more difficult by their long (Asia-based) global supply chains. Therefore, Gap’s focus on creating a “seamless inventory model” and “a more responsive global supply chain” are right on target.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Say It, Just Say It” by The Mowgli’s

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